Falardeau: Canuck puts social issues in focus

10 Directors to Watch 2012: Philippe Falardeau

Age: 43
Homebase: Montreal
Inspired by: “I’m influenced by filmmakers who work with a social canvas and make socially-engaged films,” Faladreau says, citing Ken Loach and Mike Leigh in particular.
Agents: None

Following an impressive list of filmmakers to emerge on the world scene from Quebec, Philippe Falardeau is a likely fixture in this season’s foreign-language Oscar race for his “Monsieur Lazhar.” His fourth feature, the Quebec-set “Lazhar” follows an Algerian immigrant who is hired to succeed an elementary-school teacher whose suicide has traumatized the young students.

Acquired by Music Box Films for U.S. release, the film has already found significant international exposure after being a major fixture on the fall festival circuit. This breakthrough represents the culmination of a decade of acclaimed work from Faladreau, who has garnered numerous awards in his native country, including two Genies (Canada’s film awards).

From his 2000 mockumentary “The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge” to puzzle-like 2006 Cannes selection “Congorama” to the bittersweet coming-of-ager “It’s Not Me, I Swear,” Falardeau’s pre-“Lazhar” filmography proves quite eclectic.

“If you look at my four films, I’ve tried many different things,” Faladreau notes. “I think people who have seen my films can appreciate my sense of humor and the way I film characters, but I don’t want to get stuck in one style of filmmaking.”

In the case of “Lazhar,” creating a moving, relatable character allowed him to address the topic of immigration — a subject he’d wrestled with for a long time.

“Every time I came up with an idea, it was just too didactic,” he says. “I didn’t want my characters to sound like ideas. But then I saw a play in Montreal that was the story of an immigrant talking about his experiences as a replacement schoolteacher. I started to imagine all the other characters and saw something that became the film.”

Three years later, the film that resulted from that experience has opened considerable doors for Faladreau.

“Eventually I’d like to make a film in Europe, and I’ve juggled with ideas for stories that would take place in Latin America,” he says. “If I’m offered something in English, I would definitely look at it. But for now, I think my place is still here in Quebec making films in French.”

10 Directors to Watch
Zal Batmanglij |

Valerie Donzelli | Gareth Evans | Philippe Falardeau | Mike ‘Mouse’ McCoy & Scott Waugh | Gerardo Naranjo | Matt Piedmont | Michael R. Roskam | Lynn Shelton | Benh Zeitlin